Fat Won't Make You Fat
Let me guess, 80% of you think that eating fat will make you fat... Some of you probably even think that thinking about fat is going to make your jeans a little tighter. Well, if that was the truth, then I'd look quite different than I do because let's be honest when I'm not eating peanut butter, I'm probably thinking about it. ;) Okay, kind of joking, but I eat a lot more fats in my diet than a lot of people would probably deem acceptable for themselves. I absolutely LOVE nut butter (I know what you're thinking "okay okay Nat we get it you're addicted, now go get help") and avocados, I buy low fat (not non-fat) lactose free yogurt, I eat Angie's popcorn made with sunflower oil, eggs, coconut and "fatty fish" like salmon. I'm not afraid of fat and you shouldn't be either.
(paleo granola is one of my favorite ways to get in healthy fats)
You absolutely NEED fat in your diet (about 20-30% of your calories should come from fat) to have your body run correctly and efficiently, and here's why:
Fats provide our body with sustaining energy.
Fats are essential for proper nerve and brain functions.
Fats keep our cells healthy and functioning.
Fats help our bodies absorb certain vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E and K.
Fats help our bodies burn fats. WHAT?! Yup, it's true. Fats give our bodies almost double the amount of energy as carbs and protein, so a diet without proper amounts of fat will hurt the metabolism and won't have the fuel to burn more calories.
(chia seed pudding topped with even more healthy fats like coconut flakes is a perfect breakfast to fuel your day)
As you can see fats are REALLY important and a play huge role in the functionality of almost every aspect of our body. Now that you know why fats are so important, let's get into the "good" versus "bad" (versus "in-between") fats.
Don't be going around eating Big Macs and bacon for every meal saying "Nat told me I had to eat fat" because then I'll get a bad rep and I can't be having that. ;) Put simply, unsaturated fats are "good," trans fats are "bad," while saturated fats are "in-between." Foods with healthy fats include:
Nuts / nut butters
Salmon / trout (they also include "in-between" saturated fats, but unsaturated as well)
Extra virgin olive oil
(I always make sure to add lots of healthy fats into my smoothies like coconut butter and nut butters)
About 20-30% of your daily caloric intake should be coming from fat!!! For me, I probably get more than that because it's what works for my body. Do what's best for you, but don't be afraid to chow down on these foods.
Foods with unhealthy fat include:
And no, I'm not saying you have to completely cut these out of your diet, but eating them in small amounts and not every day will help you live a healthier life, because too much of them will raise your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol. These trans-fats can also cause inflammation and add to insulin resistance.
Also keep an eye out for terms like "partially hydrogenated oil." Hydrogenation turns "healthier oils" into solid oils in order to keep them from going bad. This process ads hydrogen atoms to the carbon chains.
Saturated fats are in-between "good" and "bad." There are so many countless studies done on these fats and there's no one clear answer to whether they're "good" or "bad," but I truly believe not all foods can fit into a box like that. I eat plenty of the following foods and am healthier than I have ever been! Foods that contain saturated fats are:
Coconut oil / coconut milk / raw coconut
Most cuts of meat (beef, pork, lamb...)
Some studies have shown that too much saturated fat can cause issues with cholesterol and heart health, but they aren't nearly as bad as trans fat. AND not all saturated fat is created equal! The saturated fat in coconut is made up of medium chain fatty acids which are metabolized differently within the body. It is used more directly as an energy source than the saturated fat found in animal products.
(Emmy's organic coconut cookies + pb + coconut = healthy fat match made in heaven)
With that being said, fat from even these "in-between" sources are not harmful to your health when eaten in moderation. Something I've also noticed is a lot of fat-free products (namely fat-free yogurts, protein drinks, etc.) is that they have a long list of unhealthy additives and added sugars, making them a lot unhealthier than the low-fat (opposed to non-fat) options. Added sugars are a leading cause of weight gain and other health issues, so while you may think you're making a healthy choice by buying "fat-free" yogurt, it could be hurting you in the long run and you'd be much better off eating a yogurt with 1% fat. Eating wholesome foods is much more important than eating overly processed foods just because they're "fat-free."
Although a lot of Americans get too much fat in their diet (mostly from unhealthy sources), a lot of people also struggle with not getting enough. How do you know if you're not getting enough fat in your diet? Here are a few key signs:
Constant hunger. Even if you're eating a good amount of calories for your body and activity level, a diet low in fat will leave you feeling hungry no matter how much you eat. Fat makes us feel satiated and holds us over for much longer.
Being cold (even if it isn't that cold out). Low-fat diets typically means less body fat, making you colder and your body unable to regulate it's temperature.
Dry skin. Remember how I told you that fat helps our cells function? Yup, our skin cells are included in that! Fat means happy skin cells.
Feeling fatigued, sluggish or overly tired. Have you ever had days where you got plenty of sleep, drank coffee, ate a normal amount and are STILL tired? Go eat some almond butter and I bet you'll feel better. ;)
I know I just threw a lot of information at you, but I felt it was an important topic to discuss because there is such a misconception in our society that fat is the enemy. SO, out of everything I've told you, if you take one thing away from this post make it this: Fat is our friend, fat is a necessary part of every diet and "fat-free" is not a synonym for healthy.